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Ayr Gold Cup Draw and Pace Bias Plus Western Meeting Pointers

A different format last week but thankfully I still managed to flag up the chances of Hurricane Ivor who won the Portland. This weekend’s big meeting is of course taking place at Ayr. It’s the final day of the Western Meeting and the big races of the day are the Ayr Silver Cup and the Ayr Gold Cup.

I’ll delve into potential draw and pace biases in this race shortly but it’s worth noting that the draw bias does definitely change from year to year in this so the best clue of all is likely to come in the Bronze Cup which will be run 24 hours earlier than these two races. Middle to low looked the place to be on Bronze Cup day.

That’s all the future though, on to what’s happened in the past.

Ayr Gold Cup Draw Bias

This data can be applied to any big field sprint at Ayr, including the Bronze Cup and Silver Cup.

This race can be run on extremely soft ground but it’s normally run on ground that is good to soft or better so it should pay to concentrate on this data.

Historically it has paid to be lower rather than higher. More than half the winners in this sample have come from the lowest third of the stall whilst high has performed better than middle, an indication that you probably want to be drawn one side or the other and not marooned in the middle.

The place percentages are better for low as well with a place percentage of 23.53% for those drawn on the far side of the course. This time around middle performs better than high for place percentage although there isn’t much in it and low is the clear winner again.

All metrics are useful when examining draw biases but in terms of purely finding out if there is an advantage one way or another PRB (percentage of rivals beaten) is often the top dog as every runner is contributing to the data sample. The PRB figures for this course and distance are 0.53 for low, 0.51 for middle and 0.46 for high. Again this points towards lower the better.

No draw analysis would be complete without looking at the individual stall data as it’s often not just a case of low v middle v high. There are usually some micro biases and cut off points within the overall draw.

The individual stall PRBs aren’t overly conclusive. The two best readings come from the two highest stalls suggesting a very high draw is an advantage although no other stall, 20 or higher, appears in the top fourteen places.

It’s easy to see why the data favours lower drawn runners. Stalls 2 to 10 inclusive all appear in the top thirteen places meaning nine of the top thirteen stalls are 2 to 10.

Stalls 14 to 25 inclusive all appear in the bottom fourteen stalls as far as PRB is concerned. That’s a sequence of 12 stalls all performing badly, much worse than stalls 2 to 10. This all appears to suggest low is the place to be in this race.

So we definitely want to be drawn low and high numbers have no chance, is that right?

Absolutely not!

In 2020, on good to soft ground the finishing positions of the first 5 home in the Bronze Cup were 21, 22, 4, 14, 24 so higher draws certainly can’t be ruled out. It does seem that low is favoured more often than not though.

Ayr Gold Cup Pace Bias

Big fields can bring about the best in hold up types but do these big Ayr sprints suit the patiently ridden or the prominently ridden?

Despite the straight track and cavalry charge style race the pace tends to hold up remarkably well here. Prominent and mid division produce more winners but from far more runners. In terms of win percentages (9.09%) and place percentages (29.55%) front runners do best of all here. Prominent is next best on the place percentage leader board, followed by mid division, with held up the worst run style for seeing horses to best effect here. When you see a sliding scale like this it’s a pretty sure sign of a pace bias.

One stat that stands out is that backing front runners blind each way in these races gives you a level stakes profit of 17.11 whilst the same strategy for hold up performers yields a 110.71 loss!

Ayr Gold Cup Draw and Pace Combination

I make no secret about my love for the draw and pace combination heat maps on Geegeez Gold and we’re going to see an insightful heat map here.

It’s quite telling that those drawn high seemingly need to be ridden aggressively to be seen to best effect. The best draw and pace combination is leading from a high draw and it produces an amazing PRB of 0.73. Being prominently ridden from high draws also sees horses to good effect but the more patiently ridden you are from a high draw, the more you are likely to struggle.

If drawn low, prominent seems best of all, with low or middle draws seeming quite crucial for those that are going to be held up. If drawn in the middle it seems mid division isn’t the place to be. This often seems to be the case with these heat maps and is probably because horses racing in mid division in big fields from middle draws seem the most likely to experience traffic problems (at least those that are held up can switch wide, those in mid division will be surrounded by other runners and are forced to wait for the gaps to appear).

Ayr Gold Cup 2021 Pace Map

All this talk of pace is irrelevant unless we look at the pace maps for these races. Even if the course tends to lend itself to front runners, an excess of early leaders can cause a pace collapse handing the advantage to those that like to come from behind.

Two things stand out with regards to this pace map. For such a big field there isn’t a whole lot of pace. Just Frank likes to lead, as does Mr Wagyu whilst Brad The Brief tends to only track the leaders.

Second of all, the pace is in the middle of the course. Both of these facts seem bad news for hot favourite Great Ambassador who isn’t going to have a really strong pace to aim at and he isn’t going to have a whole lot to take him into the race either unless he’s switched towards the centre early on.

This probably isn’t going to be the ideal scenario for hold up performers or those that stay a little further. This should be a relative speed test and with the course favouring pace anyway I’d be pretty keen to side with something that races prominently at least. I’ll share some thoughts on some form contenders further down this article.

Ayr Silver Cup 2021 Pace Map

Will we see more pace on offer in this contest?

Possibly a couple more pace options in this one but at the same time the Gold Cup has two real trailblazers, there may be none in this field!

Bergerac tends to lead but he was only ridden prominently last time. Likewise Soldier’s Minute can lead but he often only chases the leaders too. Similar comments apply to Mid Winster and Air Raid. Bergerac seems the most reliable pace option and maybe a couple of other jockeys will take the initiative and go forward to give their mounts the best chance possible.

Unlike the Gold Cup there is a better spread of pace. Bergerac will give the lower numbers a decent tow, Mid Winster should lead the middle pack and the higher numbers will probably follow Air Raid. If the lower drawn runners track over towards the middle we should see a lot more pace there than on the near side rail.

I’d be keen again to support something that will be ridden near the pace in this as I’m not convinced there is going to be enough pace to allow too many to get into this, especially not the most patiently ridden runners.

Ayr Western Meeting Top Trainers

This is a big meeting, Ayr’s biggest, so it’s interesting to investigate which trainers seem to target this meeting.

Given the smaller sample for looking at just September results at Ayr it makes sense to concentrate more on the each way data than the win data. This table is sorted by Each Way %, showing how often these trainers are hitting the frame, and those figures should be cross referenced with the EW PL to see if they are meeting market expectations.

There are some real stand out trainers in this list. The record of Bryan Smart certainly shouldn’t go unnoticed but in terms of trainers who are doing really well with some serious volume the likes of Tim Easterby, Mick Channon and Keith Dalgleish are all trainers to take very seriously with their runners at the Western Meeting here at Ayr.

Thoughts For This Weekend

With this information the immediate thought is ‘how can we profit from it this weekend?’ and I’ll now share my thoughts on some runners who, at the very least, should be able to outperform market expectations.

Ayr Gold Cup Preview

There is rain around for most of Friday but it doesn’t look likely to amount to a great deal and probably just saves them watering the course.

On the assumption of relatively fast ground I most certainly want to be with something that is going to be front rank, something that prefers fast ground and something that is in good form. A low to middle draw also seems an advantage both historically and based on the races that took place on Friday. One runner that fits that category, and pretty much the only runner that does so, is Mr Wagyu. He's had a ridiculously good season, winning five races including the Stewards’ Cup consolation race.

He’s gone up in the weights since that last victory, and has been well enough beaten twice, but with excuses. The first of those defeats came at Ripon, a course where he was beaten 18 lengths, 10 lengths and 8 lengths on his last three tries there. Then last time out in the Portland Handicap he ran really well to finish 6th, finding the extended 5f too sharp on that occasion. It’s certainly true that the handicapper has made life far more difficult for him now but this seems the perfect setup for him. At around 20/1, with up to 7 places on offer at the time of writing, I’d be pretty interested in him, for all a place will be more likely than the win.

Just Frank has shown he is fairly versatile in regards to the ground this season and maybe connections have finally found the key to him at this distance with cheekpieces on. I think he is capable of running well but he’s around half the price of Mr Wagyu and his chance would almost certainly be helped by rain so if the going is good or better I’d prefer My Wagyu. Stall 18 is also a bit higher than ideal by the looks of things.

The majority of the others I like in this race are hold up performers and I think the value is definitely going to lie with those nearer the pace.

Ayr Silver Cup Preview

This takes place just over an hour before the Gold Cup so in terms of draw advantage we are relying on Friday’s racing and historical evidence.

Again, I am very keen to side with something that races pretty close to the pace in this. From a form perspective those nearer the head of the betting all seem to have very good chances and the majority of those market fancies are likely to be ridden fairly prominently. Much might depend on how the ground turns out.

Blackrod will appreciate the step back up to 6f and he’s progressing well. He’s run in some top 3yo sprints this season and has been ridden prominently on his last two starts. His best form is on faster ground and he’s drawn in 10 which seems pretty much perfect. The key thing to note here is he runs off the same mark as when winning over an inadequate trip last time out because that was an apprentice race and this is an early closing race.

Magical Spirit won this last year and has slowly returned to form this season. He should race prominently but he seems best on something resembling good to soft ground. Assuming the ground is faster I’m happy to leave him alone. He’s drawn in stall 4.

Royal Scimitar is a horse I have been following this season. He was only half a length behind Blackrod in July, when drawn on the wrong side of the track, and he is 2lbs better off this time around. He should race fairly handily but the unknown is the first time blinkers. If they have a positive effect he will probably win this, if they don’t he might well finish unplaced. He’s drawn in stall 9, right next to Blackrod, and probably appeals more as a win only bet than an each way if the ground stays fast.

Bergerac is another runner that I’ve personally been following and he’s been really consistent all season. He was runner up at Doncaster on softer ground on his penultimate start, behind a subsequent winner (the third and fourth have finished runner up and third since so good form) and he followed that up with a win at York on faster ground. He’ll likely try to make all from stall 5 which should see him to good effect. Unfortunately he’s 3lbs wrong under a penalty. Assuming there isn't lots of rain he should still run very well and is expected to be amongst the places.

None of those runners are going to make anyone rich so here are two horses at bigger prices that might be interesting, but both are drawn high which looked a negative on Friday. Total Commitment at 16/1 looks overpriced on his Stewards’ Cup 4th. He can lead or race prominently and whilst that effort came on soft ground, he has also won on fast ground. I’d be slightly more interested if the rain came for him as it would inconvenience a few of those fancied horses above that want the rain to stay away.

The other big priced one of interest is Lord Rapscallion. He’s drawn in 23, one stall lower than Total Commitment, and he’s been running in top handicaps all season (4th in the Buckingham Palace Stakes, 3rd in the Bunbury Cup). He didn’t look to stay a mile last time and he’s interesting based on his only 6f run on turf this season when runner up to Chil Chil (easy winner but now rated 14lbs higher) and in front of Great Ambassador, the ante post favourite for the Gold Cup. He’ll race handily and he handles fast and soft ground, just like Total Commitment. Unless high draws do well in the Silver Cup this pair seems best left alone though.

Assuming fastish ground I think Blackrod and Bergerac are near certainties to be in the frame at the least. If they were to compete on current ratings Blackrod would be 8lbs worse off with Bergerac than these terms which suggests Blackrod should be the pick of the two. Royal Scimitar is risky with the blinkers on but if he takes to them he should beat both Blackrod and Bergerac.

Another Race Of Interest

In May, in this column, I put forward a good case for Redarna at a big price in a Haydock handicap. He ran a blinder that day to finish a close 4th and that race worked out well with the 3rd, 6th, 7th, 8th, 10th and 11th all winning shortly after and the 2nd, 5th and 9th all going close on their next starts. That race was run on heavy ground and in that preview I stated that Redarna would be almost unbeatable off his current mark on easy ground at Ayr.

I made that statement knowing the horse had form figures of 1111241, with that 4th coming at 10f (all other races in that sequence had come at 7f). As it turned out Redarna’s next run came at Ayr but I swerved him that day because of fast ground – his only previous win on fast ground had come off a 21lb lower mark. Unfortunately for me he added another 1 to his course form figures at a fair enough price of 9/2. That was only a five runner race but the runner up has gone close on two occasions since so it’s not bad form.

Redarna is a good horse in cheekpieces at 7f or a mile when racing on good or softer ground. His form figures in this scenario read 12117215014. Interestingly the 5 and the 0 came on his two runs at Thirsk so it seems he doesn’t get on with that course.

Given cut in the ground or Ayr, he tends to run very, very well. At Ayr with cut in the ground he’s pretty much unbeatable (in the right company off this sort of mark). He proved he can win off this sort of mark on fast ground at Ayr in July and two defeats elsewhere on fast ground aren’t of great concern. He’s just 1lb higher than his last win and 1lb higher than that hot form at Haydock in May. On fast ground on Saturday he’ll rate a fair bet, on good or even softer he’d be a stronger bet. He runs in the 4.50.

Other Hot Form To Note

Hot form, that is races that are throwing up subsequent winners or runners that are getting much closer to winning next time out, is my main consideration when finding a bet. There is some hot form on offer in the Dubai Duty Free Handicap (3.25) at Newbury on Saturday.

This race looks set to be dominated by the classic generation with several of the well fancied 3yos yet to fully show their hand, which makes backing those horses, or opposing them, a bit risky. However King Of Clubs surely has to be a very solid selection in the race.

His run at Newmarket at the July Meeting was really hot form. The winner won a French Group 2 next time out and is now rated 21lbs higher, the runner up won a Group 3 on his next run and is now rated 9lbs higher. It was no surprise therefore that King Of Clubs won at Sandown on his next start and the 4th also went in at Goodwood on his next run.

King Of Clubs only won by a nose at Sandown so I didn’t expect him to go up by much, even if he was much better than the bare result (not many got into it from behind). However the handicapper put him up 7lbs for that, presumably as much to catch up on the hot form at Newmarket as to ‘punish’ him for the Sandown win.

It’s reassuring though that the runner up in that Sandown race, Victory Chime, came out and won at Chester a week ago off a 4lb higher mark, once again franking the form of King Of Clubs. He’d rate a decent enough each way choice on Saturday even if there are likely to be a few in this race that are better than their current marks.